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Of Tragedy and Triumph

It’s easy to trust when there is nothing much at stake. It’s easy to say that you trust God to take care of you when the pantry is full and the bank account is hefty. It’s easy to say that you trust Him with your life when everything seems to be going well.

Every year as the New Year approaches I pray and ask the Lord what is coming in the year ahead. Many years ago, the year my younger son turned three, I heard, “tragedy and triumph.” My heart soared at the thought of TRIUMPH!!!! YES LORD!!!! Yet I didn’t want to even think what the first part, the “tragedy” was about. It turned out to be one of the hardest years I have walked through. We were going through hard times financially. My older son ran away multiple times and most of the year I had no idea where he was. I spent many nights wondering if he was alive, if I would get “the call” telling me he had OD’d or had been murdered or some other tragedy. I wanted to fix it, I wanted him to come home, for our family to be complete, happy, safe. Yet every time I stepped in to “fix” things, it backfired. We tried everything we could think of to help him and failed miserably. If it had not been that God had given me promises over my son’s life, I KNOW I would not have lived through the heartache.

Over the year, my three year old son had three bouts of lung infections requiring hospitalization and was diagnosed with asthma. My best friend’s little girl was diagnosed with leukemia and another dear friend was diagnosed with liver cancer. To say that we were overwhelmed is putting it lightly. I am so thankful that the Lord put amazing friends in my life. While battling in prayer fiercely for her own daughter, my friend and her family were there for me as we battled for my sons, and for our friend and his family as he battled cancer. They were love in action.

By the end of the year, I felt worn down. I felt the sting of “tragedy” but could not see anything good from any of it. I cried out to the Lord, “I see the tragedy! Where’s the triumph!” I heard, “You made it.” “You made it” was NOT the triumph I wanted!!!! I wanted my son home, healed and whole. I wanted my younger son not to have to be quarantined every time there was a threat of a virus, I didn’t want him to have to endure the treatments or to have the fear of doctors he had developed. I wanted him whole and happy. I wanted my friend’s daughter to have no need of a port for chemo, to live the life of a healthy happy little girl. I did not want my friend D to be in the pain that wrecked his body. I did not want him to be healed “on the other side” or have “ultimate” healing, I wanted him to healed in the here and now.

What I got was, “You made it.” That was my triumph. Not what I expected, not what I wanted. But there was so much I didn’t know, so much that was to come that would show me just how much triumph there really was. Triumph in making it through and triumph in what was to come from it all. Amazing things often come in strange packages.

It was a long battle over many, many years, but my son is emerging from the darkness that had him bound for so long. My younger son has outgrown the asthma.

As for the sweet little girl that walked through the dark valley of leukemia, so very sick - that shadow of death was a scary shadow, but a shadow. So thankful that our Daddy is true to His word that when we walk through that scary valley His Presence is there with us to guide, direct and comfort. It is the only thing that got this family I love so dearly through it. Triumph came that year when they made it through still in love with Jesus. Further, amazing triumph came many years later, the day she started college and my friend and I cried and cried as we saw Daddy’s goodness in the significance of that day. Many years before, the darkness tried to keep us from seeing the triumph of that day. As we cried and rejoiced, our hearts were full knowing how different the story could have been. But triumph He spoke, and triumph He gave.

For many years it was hard to see the triumph with my friend D. When he was diagnosed he kept telling us that he would be healed, he was sure of it. I fully believe in God’s healing power, I have seen him heal when doctors have said it wasn’t possible. He has healed me personally and I have seen many miracles - He is still a miracle working God. I so believed that D would be healed! He had been given three months to live. As the months went by, each week we would all meet for prayer and we would pray over him. As a year approached, we would go to his house and the Presence of God was so thick, it felt sacred, holy and he would tell us of the incredible encounters he was having with Jesus. I saw a peace on him I had never seen on anyone.

I got a call one night saying D was in the ER. I rushed to the hospital, and met his wife and son in the waiting room. I didn’t realize he had already gone until I went back to his room. When I saw his body all I could remember was the months of his faith that he would live and so I prayed thinking it was a good night for a resurrection!! Several other friends came and we prayed over him for five hours until a nurse made us leave so they could take him to the morgue. I was devastated, confused and honestly, a little angry.

For many years I just could not understand why D died. I couldn’t listen to anyone who tried to speak about it, everything sounded hollow and trite. Years later I was asked to come and pray for a woman with advanced ALS. On the way to the hospital I asked the Lord, “Why send me? I used to have faith for healing, but now I just don’t know.” Suddenly it was like curtains were pulled back and I saw the months before D’s death in a new light. For close to a year he would ask for healing prayers every week and tell us he knew God was going to heal him, but then there was a change that I had never wanted to see before. He stopped asking for healing prayer. He would just tell us about what Jesus had been showing him, the incredible time he was having with the Lord. It wasn’t until that moment, many years later that I realized maybe I had prayed for something that D was no longer praying for, no longer wanting. I wanted what I wanted and could not see anything else.

Devastating as it was to all that loved him and miss him, the shadow of death was still just a shadow, he is with His Savior. Many questions still remain, but the triumph in it all is that many testimonies came out of that agonizing year, bonds of friendship that grew us into family as we came through together. Tragedy wants to suck the life out of us, to cause us to blame God and let bitterness seep in. Triumph comes when the stakes are the highest, when we pray steadfastly that His perfect will be done, choose to trust Him, whatever the outcome. Yes, sometimes triumph is simply just living through it with your faith intake. But this really is no small thing. Sometimes the fullness of how truly great a victory is is years in the making. When the fog clears and the memory of sickness transforms into testimony we couldn't see when we were in the middle of it. When looking through the rear view mirror at the most painful points in your life now displays clearly the thread of His love and mercy bringing you through it all.

If you are in the middle of the struggle and everything around you screams "tragedy" - in the middle of it, He is there. I know, I have been there. I have been so overwhelmed that I couldn't see His hand to grab hold of. I have been angry and confused and ready to give up and He held on to me. Cry out to Him and hang on. You may not see it at first, it may be hard to recognize right away, but triumph is on its way.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

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